People who know me know I am usually pretty calm and not prone to go on Howard Beale-esque rants about how crooked and nasty politics can be.
But after what happened this Nov. 4 I can no longer sit idly by. This years midterm elections were an appalling travesty on multiple levels. It’s not just the results themselves that upset me, but the fact those results were evocative of a hopelessly broken elitist political machine that has done little good and plenty of harm to the so-called “Greatest Country in The World” for far too long now.
It might be easy for you to sit back and dismiss my views because I am an immigrant and not a true, full blooded American but the fact is, I’ve been here for 7 years and I’ll be here for the foreseeable future. This is as much my country as it is yours and I have every right to be concerned about the direction in which it’s headed.
That said, let me break down point by point why I really hate American politics today.
The Two Party System
Because of how the American political machine is constructed, there are really only two viable parties. The Democratic and The Republican. It’s probably more difficult in the United States than any other developed country in the world to get elected as a 3rd Party candidate. Oh sure, every so often an Independent will make a few waves and win a seat or two but we have never had any viable 3rd parties in this country compared to Canada and most European nations.
Politicians and voters are expected to come down on one side or the other, with virtually no room for a middle ground. That’s not a recipe for prosperity.
Hyper partisanship/Go Team Go!
Politics should never be framed as a battle of Good vs. Evil, rather it should be more like Good vs. Good. Republicans and Democrats alike should be concerned with the well being of all Americans. Compromise should be the norm, not the exception to the rule.
When one party demonizes the other and forces people to choose sides like it’s some kind of war, nothing constructive comes of it whatsoever. And when I say nothing constructive I mean nothing legislatively. How can you be expected to compromise with the guy across the table when you utterly despise him?
Hyper partisanship means that, based on our beliefs, we are all labeled as either “Liberal” or “Conservative” and instantly profiled. That is to say that, if my views mark me as a Liberal, I instantly become not only a Liberal, but a tree hugging communist who never expects anyone to work hard for their money, smokes pot and listens to weird New Age music. If my views identify me as Conservative I am now a racist, homophobic, religious, Neo confederate redneck who loves me some guns.
Of course Americans are a diverse people and it’s absolutely ridiculous to, in the face of such diversity, adopt such a black and white approach to how people think and feel about the world.
I’ve never understood why these are necessary. They do nothing but undermine the Presidency and create legislative gridlock. Consider Obama’s Presidency:
2008-2010: Democrats control the House and Senate
2010-2014: Republicans control the House, Democrats control the Senate
2014-2016: Republicans control the House and Senate
That means that, out of an eight year, two term Presidency Obama only gets about two years to constructively get anything done. A GOP house isn’t going to do much for him and a GOP Senate on top of that now means he’s practically reduced to President-in-name-only because he might as well be powerless.
In Canada, we have an election and whoever we choose to elect gets a full four years at the helm. Now of course depending on how things go that means it can either be four hurtful years or four helpful years but regardless, it gives the ruling party time to actually enact legislation rather than be tied up in endless gridlock.
Changing things up every two years to me seems a far more costly and far less effective form of governance. How can we expect a President to effectively achieve his legislative goals if the legislature is constantly changing? It’s like if a caddie kept swapping clubs out of his golfers bag every few holes and still expected him to shoot a 67.
Not only do we have midterms every two years, but the Presidential elections are every four. I know this scheduling is written right in to the Constitution and will probably never be changed, but I still dislike it.
Having more elections and firmly scheduled elections means that politicians are constantly campaigning and never governing. An article I read a couple of days ago said that given the current political climate the 2016 Presidential campaign begins on Nov. 5, 2014.
I find that campaign timeframes in America are ridiculously long. I’ve previously stated that, in Canada, the law allows for a MAXIMUM of I think 60 days between when an election is called and when the vote is held. That means Canadian politicians spend a lot more time working and a lot less time (and money) campaigning.
This is, of course, not exclusive to America. Attack ads have been part of the political game for close to 30 years now. I find though, that since the election of Barack Obama, the amount of negative campaigning and attack ads and just plain dirty politics has increased exponentially.
I’m sure we all remember the person who snuck into a nursing home and took pictures of Thad Cochran’s ill wife during the Mississippi GOP primary. It’s bothered me for years now how much politics has become more about trashing the other guy than championing your own positions.
Sadly, I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon.
Of course, I saved the Worst for last.
I firmly believe that nothing. NOTHING has been more damaging to American politics than the Citizens United decision. Because of this, the power of government has been definitively and permanently handed over not to the American people but to the Corporations and special interest groups who are now free to spend Billions of dollars annually on politics and politicians.
What tiny bit of power the little guy had left is gone forever. Politics isn’t for you and me anymore. It’s for Company Presidents and Directors of the Board. It’s for Bankers and Investors. It’s for Real Estate Moguls and Sports Agents. It’s for “Think Tanks” and Advocacy groups.
The entire power of the U.S. political system has been given, on a silver platter even, to a very elite and very moneyed group of people who will not hesitate to use that power to further their own ends at the expense of everything and everyone else.
Now it might be easy to read all this and assume that I hate America.
But I don’t.
I want nothing more than to see growth, prosperity and liberty for ALL Americans.
I love this country. I love what America has traditionally stood for.
What I hate is what has happened to this country and how what should be the finest example of democracy in the world has turned into a crooked, corrupted, distorted cash filled trash heap with little hopes of being cleaned up anytime soon.
At the beginning of this essay I referred to Howard Beale. I think it’s safe to say given the state of politics in this country today, there’s plenty of Americans out there who have every right to be and indeed ought to be Mad as Hell.